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City of Church Hill v. Elliott

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 15, 2017

CITY OF CHURCH HILL
v.
ROGER ELLIOTT

          Assigned on Briefs April 26, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hawkins County No. 2016CV124 Alex E. Pearson, Judge No. E2016-01915-CCA-R3-CD

         Roger Elliott ("the Appellant") was found guilty of "improper passing" by the city judge of the Municipal Court of Church Hill and appealed to the circuit court. In a trial de novo, the Appellant was found guilty of violating Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-118 and was fined twenty-five dollars. Because the Appellant was found guilty in municipal court of violating a municipal ordinance, a civil offense; the subject matter jurisdiction of the circuit court in the trial de novo was limited to a violation of the municipal ordinance. The circuit court erred in finding the Appellant guilty of violating a state criminal statute. The judgment of the circuit court is reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial to determine if the Appellant violated a municipal ordinance of the City of Church Hill.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Reversed and Remanded

          Roger Elliott, Church Hill, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          William E. Phillips, Rogersville, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Church Hill.Shelly L. Wilson, Knoxville, Tennessee; Rebecca Ketchie, Kingsport, Tennessee; Jason H. Long, Knoxville, Tennessee; Edward D. Lanquist and Allan F. Ramsaur; Nashville, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee Bar Association.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Proceedings in Municipal Court

         From the very limited record before us, we can discern that Roger Elliott ("the Appellant") was issued a "Misdemeanor Citation" for "improper passing"[1] by Church Hill Police Officer K. Grigsby. The citation commands the Appellant to appear in the Municipal Court of Church Hill at 8:00 a.m. on January 20, 2016.[2] Based upon handwritten notations on the citation, the Appellant arrived late for court, Officer Grigsby had already left, and the case was reset. Following a bench trial on February 17, 2016, the matter was reset to March 16, 2016, "for decision after research." Under the section of the citation titled "Judgment" is written "Improper Passing found guilty, " the signature of the municipal judge, and the date March 16, 2016. At two places on the citation, "$124" is handwritten.

         Proceedings in Circuit Court

         The Appellant timely appealed to the Circuit Court for Hawkins County. The Appellant filed a motion for summary judgment on July 25, 2016. In the "Memorandum of Law" section of the motion, the Appellant states: "Ludwick v. Doe, 914 S.W.2d 522 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1995) emphasizes that Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-8-118 permits the safe use of any paved part of the roadway, not just the main-traveled part, to pass safely right of a left-turning vehicle." Chronologically, this is the first reference to § 55-8-118 that appears in the record. The record does not contain an order ruling on the motion for summary judgment.

         Following a bench trial on September 19, 2015, the circuit court issued a one-page order which provided:

On December 20, 2015, at approximately 9:55 PM, [the Appellant] violated the provisions of TCA 55-8-118 (b) by failing to safely pass a stopped vehicle, at the intersection of Main Street and Central Avenue in Church Hill, TN. After a bench trial, the Hon. Allen Coup found [the Appellant] guilty of violating said statute and his judgment was rendered on March 16, 2016. Following a trial de novo, Judge Alex Pearson found on Sept. 19, 2016, that beyond a reasonable doubt, defendant had violated the aforemention[ed] statute, again following a bench trial testimony of one witness, and argument of counsel. [The] Appellant's fine is reduced to $25.00 and court costs are taxed to the bond.

(Emphasis added).[3]

         Appeal to the Court of Appeals

         On September 20, 2016, the Appellant filed a timely Notice of Appeal from the September 19, 2016 judgment of the circuit court to the "Court of Appeals (Civil)." The Court of Appeals determined that "[b]ecause [the Appellant] was charged and found guilty of violating a state statute, rather than a municipal ordinance, we conclude that we are without subject matter jurisdiction to consider this appeal" and transferred the matter to the Court of Criminal Appeals. City of ...


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